Braver, freer and stronger

The end product…after 12 weeks training

EARLY in 2016 I made the decision to dedicate 12 weeks of my life to getting as fit as I possibly could and in April I embarked on The Amazing 12 program run by Claude Abrams at Core Results by Intelligent Strength, Chichester.

For three months I trained five days per week, sometimes twice a day, adopted a strict eating regime and, under Claude’s careful guidance, built my body into the kind of machine that I’d previously only thought possible of elite athletes.

The incredible results that the Amazing 12 gets from regular people like me is now getting noticed all over the world and, yes, amazing is the only word for it.

But for me, it was what happened afterwards that I’m truly grateful for because the Amazing 12 gave me so much more than muscle.

Before A12 I was grieving. I’d recently lost my dad and felt adrift without him. He was my rock, my safe place and my moral compass. I never made a big decision without consulting him. Without him there, suddenly I was the grown up and it scared the bejesus out of me.

imageI have always been a worrier. I hate admitting that because it’s the thing I dislike most about myself. I am strong-willed and forthright and don’t mess about, but I worry underneath. I get anxious and fret. My dad used to be my safety net… he’d catch all my worries.

In the past, I’ve primarily used one method to deal with worry – avoidance. I found my comfort zones and stuck to them. I think a lot of people do this, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. We tend to stick to what we know even when it isn’t working.

To undertake my A12 training, I had to completely and utterly trust someone else with my health and fitness. That was a tough one for starters (because, like most worriers, I try to minimise anxiety by retaining control). I then had to unlearn pretty much everything I’d ever learnt about how to how to eat and train.

Old school bicep curls

So 25 years of mental conditioning needed to go. Basically my comfort zones were a dot on the horizon.

To say the A12 tested my metal is the mother of all understatements. I worried, I doubted, I questioned, I stressed and, for good measure, I worried some more.

But after all that, I stepped up to the bar and lifted the damn weight.

Double kettlebell front squats are not for the faint-hearted

Did the worry go away? No, most of the time I was terrified! But I did it anyway. And that’s the single most important thing I learned: that you can be afraid and do it anyway.

You don’t need to be confident in order to try: you grow confident by trying.

I have spent a large chunk of my adult life resisting change but in the months following the completion of my A12 program, I have changed my job, put my house on the market and cut my hair (this may not seem radical but I’ve been growing it for over a decade. Believe me, it’s BIG!)

I have been able to do all this because the A12 taught me that the things that scare me the most are usually the things most worth doing.


To complete the A12 I had to embrace change, put aside my doubts and push myself through a multitude of fears.

The Amazing 12 challenged my perceived limitations on every level and as a result I am braver, freer and stronger, inside as well as out.

Although I am proud of my physical achievements, that is the real A12 legacy for me. I know I can change and I know I can handle it and that feels good.

Sue websize (1)
Sue Saunders, Amazing 12 Chichester graduate

Before A12 I would say that I ‘don’t do change’ because I never felt ready. It took a 100kg deadlift to make me realise I’m as ready as I’ll ever be! I think my dad would be proud.

*If you would like to become an Amazing 12 Chichester graduate, discover your super-human qualities like Sue and experience the transformative benefits of this program, the next wave begins on January 9, 2017. For more information and/or to apply, send an email to

The Amazing 12 – what are you REALLY getting?

img_7700THERE are thousands of training programs out there. Most of them, to some degree, work. Some work better than others. So why even consider the Amazing 12?

The obvious is the extraordinary changes that can occur to your strength, fitness and physique in a relatively short time (12 weeks) to people of varying ages and body types. There are now countless examples of these transformations that have taken place around the world.

But I think it’s most important to look to what or, more specifically, WHO is the wizard with the long red beard behind all the magic.

Anyone can prescribe or devise a fancy workout and then tell you to do it. But the real value of a program or method of training is judged by its results. Nothing else matters.

Until the Amazing 12 went global, only those who trained out of Paul McIlroy’s Centaur Gym in Belfast could experience it.

imageTo really appreciate the Amazing 12 (if you haven’t been through it – and even if you have), you should understand who Paul is, what he has done and his credentials.

For starters, he is highly qualified. While I know Paul himself isn’t impressed by fancy titles, he has a BSc degree in Sport and Exercise Science. He is also certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). As an athlete, he was gifted and accomplished in many disciplines: amateur boxing (in a tough and competitive region); track and field; swimming. But probably his greatest success came in powerlifting (bench press, back squat and deadlift). There he won regional, national and then world honours as a junior, setting world records in the process.

img_8237For most of us, excelling in one sport is an achievement. But Paul has done it in multiple disciplines.

He still does Strongman training, bends the most impossibly tough nails, runs powerlifting, arm-wrestling and steel-bending clubs and last year (2015) himself competed in the kettlebell world championships in Dublin.

However, as a coach, Paul has, in my opinion, surpassed what he achieved as an athlete. For example, 18 months ago he formed a Girevoy Sport Kettlebell Club, the prerequisite being that the participants had to be athletic but without any previous kettlebell training.

Paul wanted to see how far he could take them and in the quickest time.

Thus far, from the group of seven, there have been 15 national gold medals (two national championships are run each year), two European silvers and one gold and bronze and at world level one gold, silver and bronze. That’s highly impressive.

“So I guess the experiment could be deemed a success,” Paul told me.

The inspiration for that ‘experiment’ was the experience Paul had training his wife, who he coached out of their family kitchen shortly after she had given birth by C-Section and having had zero sporting background. With only eight months preparation, she was able to go to Russia and win gold. That’s no fluke. Actually, it’s undeniably incredible.

Fionnhbarr Toolan at the world championships

The most recent success of Paul’s was Fionnhbarr Toolan, one of the group of seven, who captured world kettlebell championship glory in Kazakhstan (October 16). Toolan’s programming was devised by McIlroy. “Paul’s coaching is world class on so many different levels,” he said.

In fact, Paul would regard his work with Toolan as one of the most exciting projects he’s worked on.

“It’s not just that he has won Irish, European and World titles in the past 10 months, but HOW he did it,” explained Paul.

“He beat a Russian and four Kazakhs in Kazakhstan! He also scored the highest jerk total in the championships irrespective of weight class, beating Russian super-heavyweight World Amateur Champion by two points.

“Bare in mind that Fionn is a kid who weighs less than 67k soaking wet and had never done the kettlebell jerk in his life prior to 18 months ago!”

Red Nail

Another great passion of Paul’s is the official certified bend of the IronMind Red Nail. Paul is working with three men on this, one being Barry Mairs, who has only been in training for it for FOUR MONTHS. Barry is about to certify and Paul says his progress has been “insanely fast.”

The other two are Ben Mattingly, an Amazing 12 coach in Cork, and Adam Johnston. However, Paul has added another dimension to what they are attempting to accomplish.

Captains of Crush hand-gripper chart

Dissatisfied with aiming to certify the Red Nail, on the same day they will bid to make a certified close of the Number 3 Captains of Crush hand-gripper. To give this some context, the Red Nail is a feat of extreme strength. Not more than 100 people worldwide have achieved it in the last 21 years and 200 in the past 25 years.

But only ONE man in history has ever officially achieved both on the same day.

To make it even more taxing, Johnston will try to accomplish the Red Nail with an underhand grip, which is regarded as tougher.

As you can probably tell, McIlroy’s forte is to take the seemingly impossible, see how he can up the ante and then create a way to make it possible and often relatively easy.

He has been at it for years. The honours roll on for those Paul has coached: Men’s Health cover competitions, EAS Body for Life (biggest transformation challenge in the world) winner in 2006. There are many more examples.

Nowadays Paul has scaled things down a little. He spends much of his time caring for his mother, who has fallen ill. He doesn’t get to train as often as he would like. So he has to be more selective in where he channels his focus.

“I work with a limited number of athletes in different sports/endeavours, which at the minute includes fighters, powerlifters, arm-wrestlers, kettlebell lifters, steel-benders and grip sport athletes,” Paul told me.

“Strength/power and its perpetual progression is my life’s passion.”


So when you consider what you are getting on the Amazing 12 – the answer is not just the world’s best body transformation program that has been churning out success stories for more than 10 years. Perhaps more crucially, you get access to Paul’s vast – and I mean VAST – knowledge, experience, savvy and expertise as a renowned training program designer as well as a man who has been champion and created champions.

The Amazing 12 is a culmination of Paul’s life’s work in the world of fitness, strength and body transformations. Anyone who knows him will recognise Paul has an extraordinary mind and talent for what he does. If you want the best – which is what I did – don’t hesitate to sign up with one of the many coaches now around the world.

imageAll of us have been schooled in the Amazing 12 by Paul and supported in our development as coaches by him.

“The Amazing 12 has done an enormous amount of good for thousands of people the world over and that, for me, is a coaching/creative achievement,” said Paul. “No amount of weight lifted by me will ever top that.

“The achievements I have enjoyed the most have been the coaching ones – genuinely and hands down. Taking someone from a square one start and putting them on top of the world in some way never gets old. Just that moment of awe, at themselves and what they are capable of, which in some cases they never thought possible…nothing beats that!”

Sue websize
Sue Saunders Amazing 12 Chichester

My next wave out of the Amazing 12 runs out of Core Results, Chichester, starting January 9, 2017. Become the next graduate. I’m happy to discuss details. Contact me if you are serious about making some changes and uncovering your potential. 

Spades and barbells…where two worlds collide

Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.

OUR bodies are like gardens. Neglect them and the weeds will grow and, eventually, run the show. But a little daily maintenance and TLC goes a long way.

I’ve been helping out a friend with some gardening lately. It’s surprising how similar his world is to mine. Instead of kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells etc I’ve been using spades, mowers, forks, hedge-trimmers, blowers and sacateurs.

So many gardens are in urgent need of work. They’ve been abandoned and are wildly overgrown. But after several hours, we can have the garden transformed and looking spectacular. Similarly, I deal with many people urgently wanting to get their ‘abandoned’ bodies into shape and condition. The Amazing 12, for example, can do that in three months.

But then what? Here’s where the gardening and get-in-shape worlds collide, because the hard work is in the reshaping and the easy part the maintenance. Really.


Those who put in a little consistent love and effort into taking care of their gardens won’t see the overgrowth return. Similarly, those who regularly follow a sensible, structured training regime and remain consistent with their healthy eating will more easily be able to retain their hard-earned physiques and a good quality of health.

I’ve met many gardening customers who just aren’t interested in doing any of the work and, guess what? It all grows back. The human body is the same.

You also have some gardens which are high maintenance and need more tending to than others. Similarly, some of us have bodies which, for one reason or another – sometimes genetic – require greater attention than others.

Why do so many of us find performing maintenance so hard? After all, we all have the same amount of time in each day. But how we choose to spend that time is key. That decision comes down to what is most important to you, because for many of us life has become a juggling act and we seek to cram so much in.

So the question may be whether our fitness and health is a higher priority than some of the other commitments we have? If it is, we need to find a way to create the time.

Long-term success will also depend on how well you can hold on to the newer, healthier habits instead of reverting back to the ones that contributed to the problem in the first place.

Forming new habits are tougher in the beginning. Do it for long enough – which means sticking with it when and if it gets tough – and it becomes easier and, eventually, routine.

For many, the urge is to sit back and relax when the hard work is done and succumb to the temptations that are always around us. But that leads to the yo-yo effect – the constant battle of getting into shape and condition and then losing it all. The key is to keep advancing, setting new and realistic targets and working towards them.

If you want a lawn that always looks nice, you need to nurture it. Our bodies need continual nurturing as well.

Tools of the trade

Just as gardens are shaped by the weather and conditions they are subjected to, our bodies are moulded by our environments and the lifestyle we expose them to.

To really succeed, it is vital to take ownership of your life. That means accepting responsibility for what goes into your body and how you treat it. That means simplifying your lifestyle if it’s already too complex and stressful. That also means not shipping out the blame when things don’t go to plan. Weed out the bad habits/choices and keep the good.

Because it lasts for three months, The Amazing 12 can help develop new habits and foster the discipline required to maintain those habits for when the program is over.

Jon Waites Amazing 12 Chichester

The Amazing 12 also gives you the tools to be able to lift and train smartly thereafter. But for it to be effective, you still need to convert into action the skill and knowledge acquired.

After all, there’s no use knowing how to cut the lawn if the mower stays tucked away!

For details of the next Amazing 12 Chichester wave, starting January 9, 2017, send me an email to Be bold. Take that step towards changing your life and your body, learning new skills and creating a better and stronger future.